Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Belated FMQ Challenge from January: Frances Moore

My Belated January FMQ Challenge
I actually watched Frances Moore's January YouTube video tutorial for the SewCalGal 2012 Free Motion Quilting Challenge several months ago, and I've attempted this leafy vine motif several times in the past.  At this point, I've just sort of accepted that this particular design is not my thing, but I'm committed to completing all twelve challenges by the end of the year, so today I got out some pretty blue-flowered fabric, rolled up my sleeves, and made up my mind to do the best with it that I could.  

A few points of interest for this month's tutorial: Frances quilts without using any frames, hoops, special quilting gloves, or stitch regulators.  She suggested using a heavier 40 weight thread for this design with a 90/14 Topstitching needle and a lighter 50 weight thread in the bobbin.  When I first watched this tutorial a few months ago, I emailed Frances and asked for more details about how she quilts so successfully without the obnoxious sweaty gloves that everyone else is using -- can you tell I hate wearing gloves?! -- and she wrote back that she rubs a few drops of pure glycerin into the skin of her palms and fingertips to get them just tacky enough to to grip her quilt without needing to wear rubber gloves.  I have tried several different brands of gloves that other quilters rave about and have loathed them all, finding them cumbersome, uncomfortable, and sweaty, so I sent my darling husband out to CVS for the glycerin.  The people who worked at the drug store were not aware that they stocked it, but Bernie eventually found a little bottle of CVS brand glycerine for a couple of dollars and, for me at least, this magic sticky potion does the trick.  I am so grateful to Frances for sharing that trick with me!

What I SHOULD have done!
One of the reasons I selected this fabric for this particular quilting design was that the shape of the blue flower petals is so similar to the leaf shape I was trying to quilt.  In looking at what other challenge participants had done with this motif, as well as how Frances has used it in her own work, I had decided that the leafy vine quilting design was most effective on projects that had a tree or flower theme.  As I worked my way through my own sample, I was discouraged as I began to realize that my all-over quilting design looked like scribbles and was detracting from the fabric pattern rather than enhancing it.  Not until I had almost completely quilted my 15" x 15" practice piece did I realize that it would have looked a lot better if I had outline-quilted the flowers printed on the fabric, and quilted the leavy vines in the spaces between the flowers.  Unfortunately, by the time I had this epiphany I only had one little flower left to test it on, at the very corner of my sample.  You can see it on the left in the photo above.  Much better, right?  That way the leaves complement the flowers instead of fighting them.  Woulda, shoulda, coulda!  I'll keep that in mind for next time, for sure.  I wish I had enough of that fabric left to do a do-over!  

As for Frances' other suggestions: I don't ever quilt with a hoop (unless it's attached to an embroidery module, heh heh!) so that one was easy.  I switched back and forth for this exercise between using my Free Motion foot #24, like what Frances uses, and using my open-toed BSR (Bernina Stitch Regulator) foot.  It's good to know that I CAN quilt without stitch regulation if I need to (I didn't use it at all on Lars's Drunken Dragons quilt), but it REALLY is so much easier to learn a new design when I can just focus on "drawing" without having to also think about coordinating the machine speed with the speed of my hands to keep my stitch length even.  Also, I paid a lot of money for my fancy gadgetry upgrade, so I might as well use it!

Bob the Builder on the Back Side: Different Bobbin Threads
I did use the 40 weight thread in the needle (mine was YLI 40 wt Machine Quilting thread) with  a 50 weight thread in the bobbin (I used a turquoise shade of G├╝termann cotton thread in my bobbin), and I used a 90/14 Topstitching needle, all Frances' recommendations.  I struggled to get my tension just right using that combination, though, and I ended up putting the same YLI 40 wt thread in the bobbon towards the end -- which instantly improved the look of the back of my quilt sample.  For one thing, I prefer the look of a longer stitch length when I'm using a heavier thread and a shorter stitch length with a very fine thread.  When I use a lighter thread in the bobbin, I just don't like the overall effect from the back side.  

So, there you have it, Folks!  Another FMQ challenge completed.  I still have four more months to make up in addition to the new challenges that will be posted in November and in December.  I want to thank Frances Moore for sharing this tutorial, and SewCalGal for hosting the whole shebang.  


Rosemary Dickinson said...

I never seemed to get the hang of the leaves. My leaves just didn't look very good. That was the FMQ Challenge from January. After trying FMQ with different motifs, I should try the leaves again. Your sample looks great! I'm sure you'll catch up. I didn't do any of the extra challenges, just the monthly ones.

Jenny K. Lyon said...

I like your cheerful sample and it sounds like you learned a lot about your own preferences on this so good for you-it's a win win! I use glycerin too and it's great. I also use gloves, just switch between the two. BTW many quilters end up not using the BSR!

SewCalGal said...

Beautiful. Really looks great and I love that fabric. Great job.